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Selective Ethics (Shhh..Send Me HB1165…)
Noun: In most cases, selective ethics is a fallacious argument against another’s’ choice of inappropriate ethical stances while engaging in one’s own version. In politics, one who is beholding to many forces outside his control can easily lose his center and become serviceable to whatever influential person or group hold momentary audience. See also chameleon.
Not many legislators in the General Assembly can claim the dubious honor of a 100% endorsement from the Illinois Policy Institute, other than a few financial friendlies: mostly Republicans like Representative Darlene Senger or Senator Michael Connelly. The Illinois Policy Institute, an ALEC-backed organization provides model legislation for the eviscerating of unions, the destruction of public pensions, and ultimate privatization of institutions of public education (see Pension Vocabulary: Errand Boys). These high tributes of IPI endorsement come with unswerving obedience to the organization’s philosophies. On the other hand, a Democrat receiving over 80% favorability from the Illinois Policy Institute would be – well, it would be a pretend Democrat? Certainly, it is not what one might expect in normal political expectations. But, alas, in Illinois so much is often camouflaged. Senator Michael Noland (Democrat – Elgin)) is a highly treasured recipient of the Illinois Policy Institute’s 80% plus accolades.
Senator Noland has always acted the very voice of reason when it comes to pension reform in Illinois. Not so long ago, a somewhat different Senator Noland explained to radio host Dick Kay that a drastic action like HB1165 would be unlikely and unfair. Commenting on the original version of the bill (HB6258) the Senator described the draconian aspects of the bill as a “frustration” in response to lack of leadership, being taken up by Representative Nekritz.
Then, surprisingly last week, March 20th, Senator Noland voted to send SB1 and SB35 to the House. SB1 passed the Senate, but SB35 did not. SB1 forced a choice between health care and COLA’s. SB35 was crueler. Many Senators pulled back from SB35 for its very drastic and possibly unconstitutional benefit cutting for actives and retirees, despite clear constitutional protections against diminishing or impairing a pension/contract. But Noland voted yes on SB35.
Back in December, a very dissimilar Noland reminded Dick Kay “those already hired should be the least harmed.” He regretted he had not had time to review the legislation (HB6258) and declined to “comment in detail.” He seemed startled about the fiscal violence of such a bill. Surprising that an inside member of the pension task force would not have some insight on a bill drafted by task force colleagues; on the other hand, Senator Noland positively opined about SB1 early on. According to that Noland, choice would make the likelihood of facing legal challenges an acceptable condition – and also having all stakeholders at the table. Sounded good. Looked good.
And, now that HB1165 (twin sister to HB6258) has passed the House, we can probably predict Noland’s response to a bill which embraces all he would have sent their way had SB35 passed: Freezing COLA’s for retirees, reducing COLA’s forever, capping pensionable salaries, and increasing retirement ages. Welcome the undiscovered Senator Noland.
Nevertheless, Senator Noland’s high positive ratings from the IPI are a testament to his latest votes on pension “reform” – and perhaps a revealing look at his carefully manicured position on pensions ever since he was named a member of Governor Quinn’s original pension task force. Other members on the original task force met with various interested parties throughout the spring and summers of 2011 to seek answers, ideas and suggestions about how to cure the problems facing the General Assembly with a growing $85 billion in unfunded liabilities. While Representative Nekritz and Representative Senger became more accessible to outside interested parties, Senator Noland became decidedly less so. In the summer of 2011, repeated attempts by retirees to meet, discuss or share positions regarding pension reform with Noland were met by promises, which became qualifiers about constituency, which later became simple refusals.
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The Senator plays his cards very close, and what plans he may have for public school districts in Elgin are trump cards yet to be tossed into play. Citizens for Noland, a front for Stand for Children, is the largest single donator of funds for Noland’s war chest, according to Project Vote Smart ( http://votesmart.org/candidate/campaign-finance/33577/michael-noland - .UVIoM78yhUQ). Over $12000 in 2012 helped the Senator achieve his seat once more. One wonders which Senator?
“Stand for Children is a non-profit education reform group advocating for the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, charter schools and decreased teacher union power…Those contributions came from a handful of billionaires and multi-millionaires who have a history of giving to both Republicans and Democrats” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/chicago-teachers-stand-for-children_n_1885421.html).
Supporters of Senator Noland and Stand for Children include members of the Civic Committee of Chicago: The Crown family, Matthew Hulsizer’s Peak6 Investments, Ken Griffen of hedge fund Citadel, the Pritzker family, and Sam Zell.
So, who is the real Senator Noland? The only hint ever delivered by a vague Senator in December was his warning “stakeholders need to sacrifice so that others can have a job.” Keeping to his carefully controlled persona, Senator Nolan never told Dick Kay or anyone just how much sacrifice he intended to pile on everyone.